Friday, 31 October 2014

40th Steel City Beer Festival

Two beer geeks have have oft pondered and pontificated over points for pints in pubs around the city but never for an audience. We were kindly invited to judge beers at the 40th Steel City Beer Festival by Chris who is the rock that keeps the Gibraltar Street fun house aka Shakespeares so splendidly special.

The Kelham Island industrial museum was a grand location for Sheffield's biggest beer Fest including a marquee, the Millowners pub and the Upper Hall.  Scoring the ales for aroma, appearance, taste, drinkability and after taste was straightforward and sensible but also great fun.

We had a good mix of fellow judges on both the panels we judged and,from each tray of ten ales, there was usually one or two that really stood out for us. We only knew the candidates by number though so there was no voting for favoured brewers (Steel City, coughcough).. Plenty of happy hopheads mind charting beer geekiness although collating results proved trickier as the numbers of beers judged increased.....hic!

Before, between and after panels we, err, drank some beer. We liked the Hopcraft offerings especially Who`s Been Sleeping in my Brain, we think, but, despite a valiant effort, we barely scratched the surface of the 150+ beers on offer. Snowball by Waen also was an opinion divider.
All in all, this event appeared to be a great success. Venue,ales, food and judges were sagely selected for the impressive numbers of punters we saw on the opening night. Roll on 2015 and number 41!


Top 3 beers of the festival were 1st Thornbridge Cocoa Wonderland 2nd Fernandes Half Nelson 3rd Rat Ratweiller

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Maltings (and others), York


Now then, we all know that Sheffield is the real real ale capital of Britain, really, but there are other places that might be worth a look. York is one such place, located to the North of the Republic.

A fifty minute train transit wasn't too painful and made all the easier knowing that the York Tap was awake and awaiting. I enjoyed my hard-earned Hop Dog, a 5.5% quaffable brew from another republic known as Sunny. This boozer out-does the Sheffield Tap on cask offerings with an impressive twenty although keg and bottle is broader in the steel city. Both boozers stand-out with their gorgeous interiors. Less Tapped Brewery beers in York though and thereby way more cask choice.

The Maltings was next stop and boy has the place altered since I last visited it in the Noughties. My comrades ate here and were well-satisfied with the pre-footy foody fare whilst the beer range was tidy tackle too. I wasn't over-keen on my Roosters brew whilst the Black Sheep specials impressed others in our group. Best for me though was Red Willow's Directionless (4.2%) on keg and The Macc lads rately err in our book.  Tasty, though it was snubbed by some of our growing  group for being keg. That's not real!

The York Arms is a Sammy Smith's pub that does not disappoint. Plenty of err, enthusiastic, err  older drinkers out early drinking plenty and the Best at £1.80 was difficult to argue with.

Post-match pints were located at The Three Legged Mare. This is a tap for the York Brewery and it proved popular with a range of early evening drinkers. My York IPA was steady whilst the Dark Star Hophead disappointed a bit, as it has done lately tbh. However, 12 cask lines and a few Premier league keg devils provided ample pintage for post Bootham Crescent boozers.

After the Mare we Legged it to the train and my evening ended with a visit to the Sheffield Tap and a first try of Magic Rock's Pognophobia . A memorable end to a decent day's drinking. 'Same but different' our Hudd heroes have heralded and this could apply to York, the two Taps and also the Pog pint. Try them all!

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Beagle, Marble Beer House & The Parlour, Chorlton

Beery bods nationwide descended on Manchestor this weekend heading for the lauded Indy Man Beer Con. I was a few miles South of the mark!

Chorlton is a lively leafy suburb in the South of the city and there is an abundance of options for a night-out there. We started at The Parlour which seemed to have a nice mix of the traditional and modern, kind of a shabby-chic vintage vibe. There were half a dozen cask ales to choose from plus the usual suspects on keg. and I enjoyed my Red Willow Seamless here. At 3.6% this pale ale was a sensible starter (for once) and it was well kept with sufficient hops to interest the palate. These Macc lads are consistently very good to be fair and we enjoy seeing their ales around the Steel City too.

From the outside, The Beagle didn`t look like my cup of tea:-

The pub was pretty busy though and I was very pleasantly surprised at the selection therein. They had four handpulls plus an impressive board of ten keg products dispensed discreetly from the rear of the bar.  The kegs were nearly all from big hitters like Siren (Shattered Dreams at £9 a pint, similar to Rutty), Kernel and a SWB house beer. My OH opted for a First Chop coffee IPA (3.5%) and I enjoyed my Arbor NZ Pale which at 4% was nicely crisp, floral and hoppy. Convention would suggest that coffee works well with malty brews but credit to First Chop for errr, trying something different.

Last stop was the boozer I`d been hoping our guides would take us to- The Marble Beer House. Not as aesthetically pleasing as Danny`s fave The Marble Arch, however this place had the range of Marble ales that still quite possibly represent Manchestoh`s premier pints. Between us, we had them all: Chocolate, Ginger, Pint and Dobber plus the collab with Beermoth and a shared bottle of Earl Grey IPA.

Our gang of four all had different favourites but mine was the bottle which was £4.95 and decent value compared to £5.50 for a Jaipur at The Beagle. Chocolate Marble on cask was popular too. I`m looking forward to visiting central Maanchestor in a month or two and Chorlton was certainly a winner.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Sheffield Brew Fest @ The Bath Hotel

Collaboration and cooperation seem to be watchwords, very valid vocab, in British brewing and beery business nowadays. (Mebbe not in crafty Camden though eh?!).

Brew Fest was the result of a true team of talent. Sean from Beer Central , Jules from HH, Edd off of The Bath plus a pair of local home brewers made Brew Fest happen filling the Bath to the brim. Every discerning beer supper seemed to descend on the Victoria Street ale house at some point during the four day Fest and no one can have left disappointed. The Bath is a Grade 2 listed building heritage, a real beauty, and a beer geek favourite for several years now. Quality not quantity appeared the apparent aim of this event.

30 cask offerings plus more of similar quality in keg and bottle covered all beeriodic bases.
For both of us, Thornbridge`s own Desert Sessions (5.7% rye) rated very highly and may well appear in a separate blog bit.....

I quite enjoyed the SWB Cirachi (5.8%) as my first tipple recommend by a fellow beer geek whilst Danny had enjoyed the 5 Points pale at 4.4%. Atom, Steel City and Anarchy divided opinion amongst us and our drinking neighbours (including ar Wee Beefy) whereas we were all fans of Tiny Rebel`s Cwtch a 5.6% red, having encountered it at Derby last year.

 (two innocent-looking ales)

 On keg Wild's Wildebeest was an 11% special and drew many admirers as did Magic Rock`s 9.2% Human Cannonball and the Sierra Nevada Big Foot barley wine but Danny chose Marble as his top beverage. I plumped for Siren. Or Magic Rock. errr.

 Firstly,  Earl Grey IPA appeared quite late in our evening but it is a tremendous beer, one of the very finest of its type. This one was in a bottle which is surely worth seeking out at Hop Hideout (Abbeydale Road) or at Beer Central (Moor Market). Siren have done nowt wrong in 2014 in my book and the Berkshire brewers have taken our steel city by storm. Soundwave is a straight up west coast IPA that is beautifully balanced at 5.6%. Citrus fruity fresh and happily hoppy. All good! Mind you, Magic Rock`s Pith Head, a 4.5% fruity radler, was also a standout ale. Too much choice! Huddersfield and Reading were in the same division for this clash and it was Premiership not a lower league!

So     -     30 barrels + city's smallest pub = Big Success
Therefore, ergo, henceforth : Quality is more important than > quantity. QED, etc.
Well done and a sincere thanks to all the organisers plus the squad of enthusiastic volunteers who helped run the bar at first Sheff Brew Fest. Take a bow and put your feet up after that sterling effort. But when's the next one.......?!?!!